NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “The Walking Dead” are present in this review
Well, that didn’t take long. It would appear that the flash forward at the end of the previous episode of The Walking Dead is serving as another official time jump for the series, as, “New Haunts” picks up with most, if not all of Alexandria settling into the Commonwealth. In fact, thirty days have now passed since the Alexandrians were welcomed into the Commonwealth’s gates, seemingly on a temporary basis while they wait for their town to be repaired, though clearly, the option to stay is proving very alluring for some of Alexandria’s familiar survivors.
Immediately, this episode gets off to a very interesting start, not to mention a very ironic one. Apparently, it’s Halloween in the Commonwealth at this point, and that means all sorts of recognizable and spooky events for the kids, from haunted houses to candy shops to costume contests. This is a very clever way to illustrate just how incredibly sheltered the Commonwealth seemingly is. Suddenly, the threat of walkers is treated as a goofy joke. Even better is the fact that the Commonwealth feels like an actual preservation of the world from before, as Eugene and his separate party previously discovered. That said however, this also means that some of the old problems from the world before have appeared again within the Commonwealth, setting up another unprecedented and exciting conflict for The Walking Dead to explore during its final season.
The Walking Dead already began its 2022 run on a surprisingly strong note during the previous episode, and somehow, the series got even better in, “New Haunts.” This entire episode proved to be a smart, interesting and unpredictable tour through the Commonwealth, and how it’s influencing Alexandria’s familiar survivors, for good or for ill. Maggie and Negan are of course absent though, as we learned during the previous episode, and even then, we don’t see a few of The Walking Dead’s familiar protagonists yet, with Aaron, Gabriel, Gracie, Virgil and a few others notably being absent here. I guess there’s already a lot of ground to cover for the various lead characters though, and it would be impossible to squeeze everybody into one episode. Hell, even Eugene is conspicuously absent in this episode, despite Eugene being the character that led the Commonwealth to Alexandria in the first place!
Among the characters we do see however, many have taken up interesting new work stations in the Commonwealth, with varying degrees of prestige: Daryl and Rosita have become soldiers-in-training, Ezekiel has become an animal handler, Magna has become a waitress, Princess has become a record store owner, and Yumiko has clearly returned to being a lawyer. These new jobs also help to establish interesting new relationships with the Commonwealth’s key members, between Rosita surpassing Daryl under Mercer’s training, Daryl also happening to make an enemy of Governor Pamela Milton’s disagreeable son, Sebastian, and Carol buying her way into the favour of Hornsby, as a means of moving Ezekiel up in a surgery queue that will save his life. Yeah, I guess Ezekiel’s life is in danger from his cancer again. So much for the Commonwealth’s efficient medical care.
That question is actually at the heart of a shady underbelly that seems to be lurking beneath the Commonwealth’s upper-class appeal too. This is best illustrated during the climax of this episode, which sees Pamela hosting a masquerade ball for the Commonwealth’s upper-class citizens, which includes Yumiko, and features Connie working as a reporter with Kelly as a translator, while Daryl and Rosita provide security. This otherwise classy night is soon interrupted by the soldier that Princess beat up in captivity however, who was apparently demoted to becoming a waiter as a result, thus leading to him taking Pamela’s assistant, Max hostage at knifepoint! The ex-soldier, Tyler, is eventually talked down and arrested by Daryl, who curiously allows Sebastian to take credit for the arrest (I wonder how this will pay off later), but even though this hostage incident is ultimately resolved without bloodshed, both Daryl and Rosita are nonetheless quickly tipped off to a secret resistance, and a brewing class war growing within the Commonwealth.
While this will no doubt be familiar to fans of The Walking Dead’s source comics, the ultimate payoff of a class divide, and how it’s already creating tension between Alexandria’s familiar survivors, is pretty fantastic. In fact, if there’s merely one small gripe to be made about this episode’s otherwise standout Commonwealth storyline, it’s the fact that the storytelling is spread a little thin here, and obviously can’t cover all of the necessary ground when it comes to fully catching up with this show’s massive lead cast. On top of that, while it is a minor quibble, it’s a little curious that the writing chose to skip over the Alexandrians first arriving at the Commonwealth, and first reacting to such a well-developed, prosperous community that’s now taken them in. Jumping ahead to thirty days after everyone moves to the Commonwealth feels like a questionable move for the narrative, even if it was no doubt done for the sake of efficiency with The Walking Dead’s final episode count.
Even if it has to gloss over a few important details for now though, “New Haunts” nonetheless does a mostly stellar job of absorbing Alexandria into the Commonwealth, and quickly dividing them onto separate sides of a problematic class system. This is a great plot device for The Walking Dead’s final season, as it was for this franchise’s final comic book arc, because it leverages the fact that Alexandria has mostly been a united front since its formation. Now however, Alexandria’s familiar protagonists threaten to find themselves turned against each other, after inevitably ending up on opposing sides in a larger war that doesn’t directly have anything to do with them. This question of whether the Commonwealth will be Alexandria’s saviour or its doom is one that brilliantly hangs over the second portion of The Walking Dead’s final season, thus continuing to ensure that this mega-community remains the series’ biggest draw at this point, and that’s great news when the narrative officially appears to be settling in.
The Walking Dead hits a sustained high note as Alexandria's citizens settle into the Commonwealth in, " New Haunts", ultimately finding themselves on different sides of a growing class divide.
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THE GOOD STUFF
The protagonists' interesting and diverse new Commonwealth positions
Cute Halloween theme that punctuates how sheltered the Commonwealth is
Ominous hints of a growing class war
THE NOT-SO-GOOD STUFF
A few key questions and characters are glossed over